I've decided to write a series of diary entries over an irregular time frame to help illustrate what we can do to take our country back in 2006. This isn't about ideas, this isn't about policy. This is about reframing our message and getting control over the national discussion.
If we want to take back Congress in two years. We have to start working at these issues now. The first, possibly the biggest and hardest, is taking back the media.
Conservatives reading this would bristle. "Liberals control the media!" I hear that all the time. For every Dan Rather and Sam Donaldson, however, there's a George Will, Tom Brokaw, Brit Hume, and John Stossel. I'm not talking about taking back journalism anyway. With the exception of a few pseudo-news organizations, most generally try to be balanced. They're just lazy. I'm talking about the propaganda wing of the media. Namely, talk radio.
Rush is everywhere. So's Sean Hannity. Bill O'Reilly and Michael Savage too. As for liberal radio, there's Air America... and ummm... err... oh yeah, nothing else. Why is that? I got a couple ideas.
First, Rush and the conservative talk revolution happened at a crossroads in talk radio. He did something new. Brought an opinion to the show, and brought the basics of music radio to talk radio. He started a revolution in the format. As a result, he was wildly successful and spawned dozens of imitators.
When the shift in radio began, programmers looked for balance. They looked for liberal talkers who were liberal and proud of it. Unfortunately, talent was few and far between. Our side had Alan Colmes and a few successful local lib talkers. It wasn't enough. Conservatives slowly squeezed out the liberals that were left on the dial. The lack of talent on our side handicapped us. As a result, the right took over. The few with fire faded out too. Jay Marvin mellowed out in Chicago. Mike Malloy was squeezed out at WLS. WABC became all right wing all the time.
Liberals decided to try and fight back this year, launching Air America Radio. Problem is, rather than launching one or two shows and finding 50-100 affiliates for each, they chose to take a 24 hour network and rent out stations for it. It worked in NYC at WLIB with a somewhat decent signal. Poor business plans led to a loss of its other major signal in Chicago within a month. It has some great product with Rhandi Rhodes and Mike Malloy. It has some OK product with Al Franken and Marc Maron... and then there's the rest, which frankly sounds like a whiny, less professional and more biased version of NPR.
Here's the problem, Rush has over 600 affiliates - Air America has 39. And they are mostly small wattage stations. But there's no reason the best product (Rhodes and Malloy) couldn't grow to more markets and quickly. We can encourage the shows to be picked up with stations in major markets. We can start our own echo chamber. How? There are stations in nearly every medium market that could pick up one or both of these shows. Like, WJIM in Lansing, MI (Citadel owned), WXDX Detroit, The Zone in Columbus OH and WTKG Grand Rapids (all Clear Channel owned.)
It's not about asking for the whole network. It's about asking for one show. Or just call your local talk station and ask for a liberal viewpoint. One call won't make a difference, but dozens over a few months might. It's a long hard slog to get liberals rerepresented in talk radio - but it's something we can do if we put our minds to it.